AD, PD insist building industry must be curtailed

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Malta must act to curtail a construction industry that is causing untold damage to the country, according to Alternattiva Demokratika and Partit Demokratiku.

In a press conference held jointly by the two political parties outside of the Planning Authority’s offices in Floriana, party spokesmen lamented that instead of keeping the industry under check, the government was actually subsidising its excesses.

PD spokesman Carmel Axiak argued that government after government have rolled out the red carpet for the construction industry, to the detriment of the general public.

“We are in a sorry state. The system favours the construction industry and property speculators,” Axiak said. “These people are given a free hand to do as they please at the expense of the environment and our wellbeing. Astronomical profits are being made while common people and workers have to pay through their mouths for a decent place to live in.”

The PD spokesman highlighted that while Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that good governance was a priority for his government, he also insisted that he did not want to control the construction industry.

“Does this mean that developers will continue benefitting from the current free for all,” he asked before noting how an illegal cement plant in San Lawrenz was still operating despite an enforcement order by the PA, and that its owners were also allegedly involved in a case of false declarations concerning a huge proposed development in Qala.

On his part, AD chairman Carmel Cacopardo insisted that the government “should desist from the spinning fairy-tales on environment and land use planning moving hand in hand in order to attain a misconstrued and imaginary balance. Instead it should be understood once and for all that the current practice of land use planning without a serious consideration of its environmental impact is a basic recipe for the developing disaster.”

Cacopardo argued that far too much damage had already been caused by the building industry’s greed, and that the Malta Developers Association’s call to “make hay while the sun shines” followed from “clear government signals encouraging unbridled development.”

“AD calls for government to immediately take steps to ensure that environmental deficit caused in part by the building industry is addressed. No one will bail us out. We have to address it ourselves,” he added.

The AD chairman lambasted the industry’s insistence on subsidies to address construction waste, and the government’s willingness to help them.

He noted that when the owners of two quarries at Għar Lapsi and Mqabba increased dumping charges from €8 to €15 per tonne, MDA lobbied for subsidies, and in response, the government provided the quarry owners with incentives to keep dumping charges at €8 per tonne for at least 18 months.

“Unfortunately government has a perverted understanding of the polluter-pays environmental principle. Instead of ensuring that the construction industry cleans up its act and adequately addresses the question of how to deal with waste that it generates, the government is irresponsibly using taxpayers’ money to subsidise their mess,” Cacopardo said.

The AD chairman also insisted that all PA members should be subject to a public screening.

“This would go a long way to nip in the bud and avoid appointing as members of regulatory bodies persons who have an interest in the further intensification of building development. The environmental deficit which has spiralled out of control will not be achieved by gimmicks but through concrete action,” Cacopardo said.